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HOMES THAT NOURISH THE SOUL

Living out of town

By MONIQUE TODA, The Philippine STAR Published Mar 13, 2021 4:00 pm

A year has changed us all. And what a year it has been! It’s now the anniversary month of our lockdown, when COVID first felt like a bad dream barging into our real lives.

I don’t need to elaborate on the intense situation and overwhelming events that followed. It’s exhausting, really, to live during pandemic times. We are riddled with anxiety, fear and all those negative emotions. But here we are, still alive, which says a lot about human resilience.

There are many ways to cope with the current gray cloud that hovers above us. We realize that our wellbeing is a priority and must be taken care of. Instead of looking at worrisome external circumstances, we shift our attention internally as we search for inner peace, practice kindness, and focus on traits that uplift others and eventually ourselves.

It has also become a trend to get away from it all, from the chaos, and find serenity by relocating and leaving the city, even temporarily. The appeal and luxury of open skies, fresh air, trees, the sea, and quiet, is nourishment for weary souls. Out-of-town living just makes one feel refreshed, or even reborn.

The appeal and luxury of open skies, fresh air, trees, the sea, and quiet, is nourishment for weary souls. Out-of-town living just makes one feel refreshed, or even reborn.

I have spoken to “out-of-towners” who have opted to spend an extended break outside of their city homes, and asked them how their lives are so far.

Mike and Patty Rodriguez: A comforting farm life

  Patty had a little lamb. Actually, the Rodriguez farm has a few lambs.

Fresh air, food, the great outdoors, and a real and refreshing connection with the land and simpler rural life — this is the appeal of out-town-living for Mike and Patty Rodriguez. The amiable couple have a farm and home in two locations in Batangas, which the area locals call Lumang. They stay in their provincial abode a week at a time.

Since the pandemic made working from home or flexible work arrangements necessary, it made it possible for them to accomplish this in an ideal setting. Reliable internet and telecom connections were all that was needed to make viable their WFF (work from farm) for longer periods of time. They still have work commitments in Manila, though, which is why they go back.

Mike and Patty keep themselves busy by supervising and running the house and farm. Has this arrangement been beneficial to them? Mike says that this arrangement has most definitely been good for their well-being.

“For one, it allows us to avoid the crowds in Manila, which, in itself, can heighten the risk of contagion. The cleaner air, fresher food, greater space to move in, have all been invigorating. We are also made to move more when out here, whether it be planting, fixing things, looking after the plants and livestock. To both of us, just being with our many animals and plants is, in itself, a source of comfort.”

  Mike Rodriguez and son Manuel with the spectacular view from their out-of-town abode.

Maan Hontiveros: Indescribably beautiful sunsets

  It's WFB (work from beach) for Maan Hontiveros.

During pre-COVID days, Maan Hontiveros stayed three nights a week in her two-hectare spacious beach home. Post-COVID, that changed to all nights. The beach property in Batangas was built over 38 years ago as a family’s weekend retreat. She would spend most weekends there to replenish mind, body and soul from working and living in the city.

When Maan retired from AirAsia in September 2019, her stays at the beach house lengthened. However, she was not ready to quit city life as she started building a career in consulting with her CEO Advisors partners.

But as COVID hit last year, she was forced to decide between locking down in her condo in Manila or her beach house. In a split second, the obvious choice was made. Siblings and their families joined her and spent the following months living the simple, quiet life in their bubble where they took turns cooking delicious meals and even baking their own bread.

  Maan Hontiveros unwinds at the beachfront of her home.

“We are very fortunate to have this home by the beach,” states Maan. Fruit, flowering and hard-wood trees and many species of bamboo are found in this sanctuary. There is also a vegetable and herb garden. She enjoys a variety of sunny and shaded spaces teeming with birds and butterflies. “With fresh sea breeze, clean air, sunlight, loads of oxygen from the bamboo, mature trees and a mini forest, this is the healthiest place available to me,” she continues.

She never complains of boredom as there are not enough hours in the day for all that she does. This includes: swimming pool treading exercises; reef monitoring which entails snorkeling or scuba; beach and reef cleanup; Tai Chi classes; Qi meditation; and Bachata dance lessons through Zoom, among many other productive pursuits. She even completed a “Tribute Book” for her dad’s 100th birthday.

Maan is in excellent physical and mental shape and thriving during this pandemic. “Every space around me is so nature-blessed and conducive to meditating, working, problem-solving, conversing with family and friends online, writing, making music, or simply chilling out and living the moment.  And then there are the sunsets, which are indescribably beautiful — one never tires of watching them at the end of each day!”

Beth Romualdez: How liberating!

Bucolic farm living suits Beth Romualdez. Here she is with some of her crops from the many vegetables she plants. Her farm house (behind) is cool most of the year.

Living a simple life with simple wants and needs is how I best describe my life here on the farm. I can’t imagine going back to my former lifestyle after this. When this pandemic is over, I will still be here and still choose to be here.” This is how foodie Beth Romualdez views her present out-of-town life.

Beth has had her farmland for over 20 years and started farming for three years back then, but her busy schedule took over with consultancy work and travels. However, during the lockdown, she felt cooped up in her condo. Despite how comfortable she was in her city home, she longed for space to move around. It was then that she decided to build a small rest house.

If not for the pandemic, farm living would have been the farthest thing from her mind. Her farm sits in an ideal location close to Tagaytay where it lends its cool weather most of the year, except for summer.

After 25 years of condo living, I truly am thankful that I have this big, open space where I am free to move around, bask under the sun, breathe fresh air, and just let my hair hang loose. How liberating!

Right now, Beth spends four to five days a week at the farm, which she says is “still a work in progress.” She is looking forward to family gatherings soon. Her daughter Cathy also has a greenhouse project and will be sowing seeds in the nursery. The farm’s bucolic setting has inspired Beth to indulge in gardening. She hasn’t pulled weeds in ages but now joins her staff in doing so.

Sometimes she has a drink with a neighbor for a bit of social life. Most times, she finds herself enjoying quiet moments and having a peaceful existence, far from the hustle and bustle of city life.

Beth concludes that “after 25 years of condo living, and with all the restrictions and protocols to be observed in the city at this time, I truly am thankful that I have this big, open space where I am free to move around, bask under the sun, breathe fresh air, and just let my hair hang loose. How liberating!”

  The greenhouse is a work in progress at the farm of Beth Romualdez.
  Beth Romualdez decorates her home with tree cuttings from a curry tree.

Denise Celdran: A purposeful life

  Denise Celdran at Casitas de Victoria surrounded by chili pepper plants and mint leaves.

  Known for her teaching and practicing homeopathy, Denise is seen here nurturing her ornamental cuttings in Japanese pots.

Casitas de Victoria is located in Nasugbu, Batangas, sitting between Tali Beach and Punta Fuego. It is a family-owned farm resort and the refuge of Denise Celdran. A well-known homeopath, she has been living full-time in this oasis since the lifting of the ECQ in June of last year, with the exception of going to Manila for appointments at least once a month.

Denise grew up going to their beach house on weekends which they’ve had since 1974. Her mom then purchased a farm lot close by and built this charming bed and breakfast with an organic farm. The property has a forest and lush mangroves. The family also set up a permaculture area to preserve its natural environment. Permaculture uses the principles of nature to create a sustainable and renewable system of farming and includes kitchen gardens, food forests, preserving natural habitats, and closing the loop of the trash generated by the resort.

Aside from overseeing this worthwhile endeavor, Denise is quite busy with other activities. She practices and teaches homeopathy, a system of healing using diluted remedies from natural substances. There is a community of friends nearby and when on break from their WFH responsibilities, they spend time snorkeling, swimming, sailing and doing arts and crafts.

The main thing she loves is the like-mindedness of this small group of people who share the value of having simplified their lives, putting their energy into what matters, finding purpose and pursuing goals. Living her present “out-of-town” life has removed feelings of being overwhelmed, hurried or burnt out, which was the case when living in an overcrowded, fast-paced city.

Denise says, “I see that the pandemic and the lockdown has its upside in that I could reassess everything I had created in my life previously, and with that, design the kind of future I would like to live in. Every day is a gift when you are with people that matter, doing things that you love with great purpose.”

Banner and thumbnail caption: Patty and her dogs soak in the breathtaking view from the Rodriguez farm and home.